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Haiti’s newsreel: Constitution

In the ever-deepening state of affairs in the country, the 34th anniversary of the 1987 Constitution is being celebrated, in a rather twist of fate, two days of demonstrations have been planned against a proposed new constitution for the country. Thousands took to the streets in Port-au-Prince and other major cities across the nation last Sunday and Monday to defend the current constitution and to reject the new one being proposed by President Jovenel Moïse, giving more sweeping powers to the President, expected to be voted on in a referendum on June 27, 2021. The demonstrations were very lively and in a way exposed the ordinary Haitian’s exasperation of the state of affairs in the country. Armed with placards, protesters took to the streets, burning tires, a now familiar protest ritual, pulling down posters advertising the upcoming referendum and generally showing their distaste for what they see essentially as a power grab by the ruling party to entrench itself in power. As a bystander puts it, Haiti does not have a constitutional problem nor is there any problem with the current one. The referendum is just a way for the PHTK, tet kale to retain power; and it is a waste of time. Protesters stated that they will oppose the proposed constitution it at each turn and point out real problems facing the nation; such as the economy, security and the pandemic that is contributing to make the cost of living more out of reach to a great majority of the people.

Apart from speaking out against the proposed new Constitution, and defending the current one due to expire soon, the Sunday march provided another opportunity for the participants to denounce the dictatorial tendencies of Jovenel Moïse.  Rev. Gérald Bataille, one of the organizers of the march, expressed his fear about the situation in the country. Mr. Bataille further elaborated that the homeland is in danger, because the people are under the yoke of dictatorship, persecution and insecurity. We are run by an illegal government, because the mandate of this president ended on February 7, 2021. Mr. Bataille called on the international community to give a chance to Haiti to develop on its own, because there are no problems currently facing the country that it cannot solve and as far as the president is concerned, a national dialogue will be impossible if he remains in power. Others like Vivian Fleurimé have placed their trust and hope in God to intervene on their behalf. Ms. Fleurimé recounted how the security situation has affected her family and now among the protesters, hopes that God will intervene and help remove the president from office. Others see the crises and the demonstrations as a turning point for the country to chart a new course. According to the Secretary General of the MTV party, Schultz Simpssie Cazir, it’s a test for our leaders who are called upon to live up to this historic moment to demonstrate ethics and a sense of responsibility. At this stage, Jovenel Moïse must understand that he will not be able to succeed in organizing neither the referendum nor the elections.

In other news, there has been reshuffling of posts at the headquarters of the national police PNH.  According to sources close to the police department, inspector General Mones Augustin, who headed the traffic corps, Direction centrale de la police routière (DCPR), replaces Inspector General Marc Justin as the new head of the Direction centrale de la police administrative (DCPA). The new head of the DCPR is Jean Previl Castro. Marc Justin replaces Bernard Elie as head of the police academy, l’École nationale de police et de la formation permanente, while Jean Marc Wilkens has been named as Director of General Administrative Services. Max Hillaire, the Divisional Chief has been moved to head Personnel. The source also revealed that Carl Henry Boucher, who is currently under arrest for his role in the botched police operation in Village-de-Dieu, leading to the killing of five police officers has been replaced as head of the General Information Division, by Inspector General Joseph Jean Marie Wagnac. Though the police department said these changes do not have anything to do with the errors stemming from the botched operation in Village-de-Dieu, message on the PNH Facebook page confirms that the interim Police Commissioner made these changes with the objective of revitalizing the functioning of the High Command of the PNH, to breathe new life into police activities and to strengthen the fight against crime.

Finally, Dr. Jean William Pape, the founder and director of the du Groupe d’étude haïtien sur le sarcome de Kaposi et les infections opportunistes (GHESKIO) has been appointed as scientific advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO). The advisory committee consists of 9 members, 2 of which are Nobel laureates. The advisors serve in their personal capacity and represent a wide range of disciplines encompassing many aspects of science, ranging from basic research to the science of public health implementation. Members are selected and appointed as recognized experts from around the world in the fields of basic sciences, translational (intermediate) and clinical research, social sciences, epidemiology and public health, according to WHO. Dr. Pape is known for being the first to identify and provide the first comprehensive description of AIDS in the developing world. Besides heading GHESKO, Dr. Pape also teaches medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York (US) and an honorary member of the board of directors of l’Institut des Sciences, des Technologies et des Études Avancées d’Haïti (ISTEAH), an initiative of the du Groupe de réflexion et d’action pour une Haïti nouvelle (GRAHN).

Various immigrant rights groups are calling on the Biden Administration to keep his campaign promise and halt the expulsion of Haitians back to an increasingly dangerous place. During the campaign, it has been alleged that Biden promised to stop deporting Haitians but according to activists, the Biden administration has deported or expelled between 1,300 and 1,500 Haitian people — including hundreds of infants and small children — on more than 24 flights since Feb. 1, with no end in sight. These expulsions add up to more expulsions in a matter of weeks than President Trump did in a full year, according to a report published on Thursday by a coalition of immigrant rights groups.

Dela Harlley

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